China claimed victory over doping but many believe time will tell if it really did succeedImage: AP
DPA news agency (nda)
August 25, 2008
The Beijing Olympics were the cleanest in history, and the BALCO case made such an impact on developed countries that their athletes decided never again to take forbidden substances. Or were they, and did they?
The doping record of Beijing 2008 would appear to suggest so. Only six athletes have tested positive, with samples from four days of competitions pending examination.
And no athletes from Olympic giants China, the United States, Russia, Britain, Germany or Australia -- who topped the medals table -- are among the offenders.
However, the truth is we will need to wait till 2016 to know whether the Beijing Games were as clean as the figures suggest.
IOC president Jacques Rogge said Sunday that samples will be kept frozen for eight years. Whatever illegal substances were not detected during the Games can yet be discovered.
The world has already had a similar experience. Until two years ago few would have doubted to say "Marion Jones" when asked about "the" star of Sydney 2000. She is now in jail, her image destroyed.
More positive tests likely from Beijing
Brazilian Eduardo de Rose, an expert with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), told the DPA news agency that there will be other cases of doping at the Beijing Olympics.
"There will without a doubt be more cases after the closing of the Olympic Games," he said. But he denied that there are doping methods that officials do not know about.
"I do not think there is a system that we do not know," he said. "Nowadays when there is something like this we always hear about it. I do not believe in anything magical. In any case, if there were anything that has not been detected, we will look for it and we will end up detecting it."
That is an optimistic approach in line with Rogge's. The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had predicted 30-40 cases of doping in Beijing.
"We believe that we have had fewer cases because the deterrent effect has been augmented," Rogge said on the last day of the Games.
He explained his earlier estimate as an "extrapolation" following the 12 positive cases in Sydney 2000 and the 26 in Athens 2004, but stressed that extrapolations are only mathematics.
"It has become more difficult to cheat because - a) - we have augmented the number of tests from 3,500 in Athens to 4,500 now. Secondly, we have also increased the penalties," he said.
Rogge stressed the deterrent effect of the decision to ban from the next Games any athlete given a suspension of six months or more.
The IOC president recalled that there were 39 positive cases in the month before the Games, which he thinks should be included in the Games' final tally on doping.
More advanced nations not among those caught
However, there is one important point: the positive tests that have been known so far involve almost exclusively countries with lax testing or with a tradition of endemic doping.
And in many cases the substances found are "prehistoric," things that no star would dare use in central countries because they would easily be caught.
Doping offenders were weightlifter Igor Razoronov of the Ukraine, his compatriot heptathlon specialist Lyudmilla Blonska, Greek hurdler Fani Halkia, North Korean shooter Kim Jong Su, Vietnamese gymnast Thi Ngan Thuong Do and Spanish cyclist Maria Isabel Moreno.
Before the Games, 22 weightlifters from Greece and Bulgaria received sanctions.